Ah, preaching. The driving force behind all that is "evangelical". I have discovered that my calling, my devotions, my profession had been totally affected by my next sermon series if not my next sermon. I read the Bible watching for clever and dare I say "relevant" texts to deliver in hopes that it would not only change the lives of the listeners but would at the very least motivate their return to my service next week.
Don't let a preacher fool you. Performance pressure is real. A preacher must peform for God (we all believe this was the highest standard), for the congregation (for it is ultimately the preaching that will determine their committment to the church), and for ourselves (how do we feel about it?). When I was released from that treadmill, I discovered not only a personal faith but also a new expression of "preaching".
After my first year outside of the institution, I visited my dad who has been a professional preacher my entire life. He apparently struggles with my decision and probably wonders if I am outside of God's will which if so, allows my dad to throw even me under his bus of judgementalism. He asked me if I thought I would preach again. My guarded answer at that moment was to declare that my life was going pretty well and I wasn't in any hurry to go back to that professional lifestyle.
Dad stated that he had taken a year to do something else but realized that he really needed to be a preacher. Apart from how arrogant that statement can appear, I believe my dad is sincere and probably just can't get his head around God's multi-faceted activity, let alone a more accurate definition of God's Kingdom. He is a preacher and his life is centered on that activity. He may actually love preaching more that the people to whom he preaches. I hope he doesn't love it more than the God he preaches about....
I have lived with a very real sense of God's "calling" me to full-time (read: being hired by a church) ministry since I was 18 years old. I was never really intersted in the preaching event and pursued educational avenues that prepared more for supportive staff positions than that of one that demanded the weekly sermon. As time passed, however, I realized I could talk publicly and found the discovery of insights, the manufacturing of sermon and its ultimate delivery to be something that I could and should do. So I did.
Until I was released by God to this new journey. So the question that rattles around in my brain is "Where Do I Preach now that I'm not a professional preacher?" This has always been at the heart of my conventional understanding and interpretation of God's "real" calling. And this was regularly reinforced by my upbringing both in the church and in the home. If I am not employed at some local institution pumping out the three-point alliterated sermon each Sunday (and maybe on Wednesdays, depending on the particular denominational flavor one is employed by), am I still being faithful to a real calling? Do callings change? Does God retire a called person after having served enough time (ex., Moses, Elijah, John the Baptist, Jesus, etc.)?
My answer to this at this point in my life goes something like this: I "preach" (read: proclaim) Jesus now when I am:
- in the home of a poor family encouraging them in their relationship with a troubled teen
- helping a broken teenager see their life from a different point of view that hopefully motivates them to make better choices and gives them hope in spite of the hand that has been dealt them
- laughing with a community a friends at my workout class
- telling my story to a work associate who wonders what I did for most of my life
- am advising others to do what's right and good even if the warm fuzzies they are looking for may be absent
God is graciously leading me in deeper and more satisfactory understandings of how to live as a citizen of His culture (read: Kingdom). Perhaps Jesus' intention for those who would be like him to be proclaimers of God's culture more in the streets than in the pulpits. Perhaps the results that matter are not based on the number of people in the pews. Perhaps the best "altar call" response is the smile or hope that has been lodged in the life of someone who may never darken the door of a church building.
And perhaps for the sake of their spiritual health they shouldn't.